Monday, January 30, 2012

Mortality? Family? Milwaukee Music: A Love Letter

Larry Kennedy died last week. I'm not sure what this post is about, because while it is nudged by Larry Kennedy's death, it's not about him. I met Larry Kennedy once in my life. And judging by the fact that his death spurred an entire Facebook group that is celebrating the 80s Milwaukee music scene, with everybody digging through their boxes of memorabilia, one chance encounter is all one needed in their life, but there were people who knew him well and miss him terribly. As Rob McCuen said, "Everybody has a Larry Kennedy story. Every encounter with Larry was like a film short." Mine involved a party at my apartment, a bunch of half drunk beers, waking up the next day and making breakfast and having coffee with Stoney Rivera before realizing that Larry was still in the exact same position on our couch with the half drunk beers perfectly balanced on his limbs. But that's not what this blog post is about.

Maybe it's about mortality. I went out Saturday night not to the Pablove show (which by all accounts was wonderful, uplifting, fun, inspiring, all those things an excellent fundraiser could and should be), but just to see my husband play with Dr Chow and to get a much needed Floor Model fix. Paul "The Fly" Lawson was there, of course (he was sitting in guesting with Dr Chow) and the topic of Larry Kennedy came up. Of course it did -- somebody had posted a picture of a very young Fly in that thread earlier in the day ("I wasn't even playing lead guitar in that band!" he laughed at himself) and we were all giving him a hard time about it. (something about the longer, actually curly hair might have been it...). I told Fly my Larry Kennedy story and mentioned that I didn't know him well, but that he seemed to be Milwaukee's own Keith Richards.

"Yeah, I really wasn't a part of this scene," I told Fly. "My 80's rock and roll scene was rooted in Champaign-Urbana, and I've already had my reconnection with it and we're just starting to bury our dead. What is it about Larry Kennedy that woke everybody up?"

I think Fly hit it on the head, confirming my Keith Richards analogy: "He was supposed to be invincible. All those guys -- Andy Owens, Tess, Larry Kennedy, you never thought they would really die."

But maybe it's really about family. I've often told my kids (especially around holidays) that we have two families -- the one we're born into and the one we chose. And like any family, we mourn the passing of one of us as though they were our big or little brother or sister, or in some cases our parents or distant cousins. Since these are the people in the family we chose, these are people we weren't arbitrarily supposed to love. They drew us in, they made us love them, not because we were linked by blood, but because we simply found a connection that was just as strong -- maybe even stronger -- than blood. Like a family, we had our loves, we had our fights, we had our function and our dysfunction, our saints and our black sheep. Here we are, finding our "baby pictures" and posting them. I'm seeing pictures of people who have come to be some of my dearest friends, some of the most influential people in my life, as bright-eyed twentysometings -- for all intents and purposes these are baby pictures. And like baby pictures, we see the beginnings (and in some cases, the blossoming) of the parts of these people that will always last, into their old age and even after they die, in our hearts. Oh, there were giants in those days!

I'm looking at these pictures and reading the stories, and in some cases I feel like the girl who married into this gigantic (Kennedy-esque, if you will!) family and listening to the childhood stories of my new in-laws. Kennedy was some distant third cousin twice removed to me. People I've known for years: Stoney Rivera, Andy Pagel, The Fly, Rob McCuen, Steve Schrank, Washday, Bob DuBlon and Miles, the whole Voot/Plasticland/Frankovic crowd, the hardcore crowd, the Die Kreuzen posse, the Atomic Records (formerly Ludwig Van Ear) bunch, Mark GE and the Joy Farm clan, -- the names are washing over me like a tsunami. And people I encountered just in time before they were taken from us -- I only caught a little bit of Presley Haskel's flame as he repaired/tuned/setup my Rickenbaker at the old Baldoni store (and was lucky enough to catch the Haskels/Oil Tasters reunion at Bastille Days to see what the fuss was all about) before I heard the godawful news of his death. There's an entire thread devoted to that moment when we all heard, especially horrified that he was murdered while putting up posters for his band's upcoming show. (I mourned him, at the time, by grabbing that Rickenbaker he'd just fixed, going into my band's practice space in the basement of the old ESHAC building, plugging in and playing that motherfucker as loud and long as I could.) Oh, that wasn't his real name? Or more recently, only catching a glimmer of Lane Klosier's light before he shockingly, heartbreakingly, was taken from us. Damn, doesn't anybody in this town use their birth name?

We found things in common, and in the case of this musical family, it was how happy we were to have found people who shared this obsession with the music that we have. How many times have I said on this blog that I separate the world into two camps, the ones for whom music is simply wallpaper and the ones for whom music is a visceral lifeblood? The need to go see a band. To stand in the audience and watch somebody pour out their soul -- whether in anger, love, joy, bewilderment, satire, heartbreak, beauty or truth -- and unite us all as human beings. To pick up an instrument (and voice is an instrument) and wail out your own blues. I simply do not understand people who are not moved by this. And so, like many of us, I chose a family that is moved, and isn't afraid to say it.

I could go on and on at this point, but somebody else already has and done it better than I ever could, namely Blaine Schultz in his recent memorial of Dave Raeck -- another guy I didn't know so well. But in some respect, maybe I did know him because as I wrote Blaine, he was so obviously One Of Us. I'll leave it at that because, as I write this, I'm still not quite sure what this blog post is about, or maybe I'm not just ready to admit mortality yet. Blaine has very kindly given me permission to reproduce his beautiful eulogy here. Take it away, Blaine (bold emphasis mine):
On behalf of Tammy, Olga and Deb - thanks everyone for coming here today to remember Dave Raeck. Dave was one of the kindest people I ever met. And to be kind and generous is enough to make a mark in people’s memories. But Dave had something more. 
See, Dave knew the all about the ancient rituals and the unwritten codes. Dave knew Radio Birdman and the Velvet Underground and the Stooges and Captain Beefheart. He knew that the 45 of “Land of a Thousand Dances” was the best way to hear it and the white label promo mix of “The Red and the Black” made Blue Oyster Cult sound like the MC5. Dave knew Mott the Hoople, the Gun Club and John Coltrane and Pharoah Sanders. … and a whole lot more. 
Dave’s passion was music. And he was happy to share it with anyone who asked. 
A band can be as cool as a gang or as dysfunctional as a reality show. Each band has it’s own personality. There is an apocryphal story about a band meeting, asking what each member brought to the band besides their musical talent. 
Tough question, but simple answer -- easy -- Dave had SOUL. It is not something you can measure or even see – It is something so important yet almost impossible to explain. But if it is there, you know it. And Dave had it. 
In the 1980s I lived up north and would make trips to Madison and Milwaukee to see these bands I read about but never got to see or hear. Keep in mind -- those pre-internet days you really had to work to find records or magazines. It was a challenge. Word of mouth, mail order catalogs, used book stores, rummage sales. Certain types of knowledge was worth more. It was a challenge to make a record and sell it. Today anyone can form a crappy band and put a song on a computer. 
Life has lost some of its grit. 
So-- I noticed a guy at these shows, who -- not unlike myself -- resembled a lost cousin of the Ramones. Black jeans, leather jacket Converse All Stars – the rock and roll uniform. That is how I met Dave. 
A few years later when I moved to Milwaukee, Dave and I formed a band. We practiced in a place called The Sausage Factory, just down the hill from Zak’s Rock and Roll Palace appropriately. I worked 10 hr shifts in a factory back then so I REALLY looked forward to any time playing music. Dave played his Thunderbird bass. I think Dwayne Flowers was drumming with us at the time. 
We’d worked up a few songs in our living rooms -- and when we finally plugged in with a decent PA it --- sounded - like an airplane taking off . … And the airplane was inside our head. 
(Sometimes I think we are still chasing that moment.)
The reason I tell this story is because Dave came up with most of that first set list. Making sure we were all on the same page. And while he was easily the best gtr player in the band, he knew that by moving over to bass we had a better chance of making the band work. That is the kind of guy he was. 
That group never played out though we did record some songs at Dave’s folks house – We went on to form other bands that shared gigs. … some us never quit. Back in the olden days of record stores, people who never even knew Dave’s name benefitted from his generous spirit and his musical knowledge. When Dave Szolwinski moved Earwaves a few blocks north to a bigger location Dave could be found working the counter with Pat Cummings. 
Like Clancy Carroll said, “when you hear your music -- you will know.” 
I wonder if most people know what it is like to get in car and drive 2 hours on a Sunday night in February to see Sylvain Sylvain play at an all ages show in Green Bay? Or the Cynics in Appleton? … and then we’d lament on the way home about how great the show was but only a few dozen fans were there. 
… but lamenting helps no one. And driving into the night listening to great music is something no one can put a price on.
Later I worked part time at Record Head with Dave – and I remember one Sunday, Dave’s Mom & Dad stopped in to say hi and drop off some cookies as a snack for us. When they left Dave hugged and kissed his folks. That is the kind of guy he was. 
I hope you all have memories as great.
I do, Blaine. And I will do my best to help document them. I think this is another one of those reminders to tell those we love just how much we do indeed love them. As such, this blog has been and will continue to be, among other things, my love letter to the music community and Milwaukee in general.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Zappafest convergence

freddie lee at zappafest by V'ron
freddie lee at zappafest, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
Zappafest takes on a different flavor every year. This year it was at the Y-Not-III, a place I'll admit I haven't been to in years. In fact, I think the last time I was in there was to see Dr Chow's Love Medicine long before Brian had joined. They switched the location of the stage, and there's bars both upstairs and downstairs with an excellent selection. (I chose a very nice weissbier called 312, from Goose Island brewing). Anyway, this year there were only three bands for Zappafest, and I've seen the Dr Chow Zappa set a bunch of times now, so I admittedly heard a muffled version of "Harder than Your Husband" and "Miss Pinky" while I was downstairs, catching up with the queen of Milwaukee Prog, Julie Brandenburg, on some gossip. Nothing to print here, nothing you haven't heard already. We raised a glass to the recently departed Larry Kennedy and headed back upstairs.

Julie's playing with the Freddie Lee Band these days (among other things like composing serious musical pieces, teaching music in the schools, and still wielding a mighty sewing needle) and they were the next act up. Freddie Lee, who used to be known as "Feedback Freddie" has been around Milwaukee for ages and I concurred with Brian on the realization that, "Hey, I don't think I've ever seen him in aclub." And that was a fact. Freddie plays at so many outdoor concerts and shows, I can't believe I've never seen him in a dark club. He was a fixture at Locust Street for awhile, he's always seems to have a slot at Summerfest, and gee, I think we just take him for granted. The Riverwest legend has a lineup of younguns (well, younger than him), but they've got the chops to hold their own, and he's generous with letting them have their musical say, so you have this band that's really good, but hard to pin down. The fact that they could easily pick up their axes and crank out some Zappa classics attests to their variety. It was a nice pick-me-up on a rainy, slushy night when I normally would have just as soon stayed home. Glad I made it out to hear Freddie's smooth voice take on Frank, and it made me realize I need to check them when they're not restricted to one artist's vision. I need to check out his most recent release, "Here's Your Hat, Man." According to his Facebook page, the title came from a "scary experience on the highway retruning from a performance on a snowy/icy afternoon. The vehicle slid and eventually lost control, flipped over on its side and finally came to a stop at the freeway wall. No one seriously injured, yet very shook up." I can imagine that one silent moment when everybody looked at each other in relief that they were still alive, and the tension must have been released when a bandmember said, "Here's Your Hat, Man."

However, Saturday's set was a short one (as tribute night sets tend to be) and thus this is a short blog entry, but there's a matter of convergence I have to point out. Lee, as well as a good portion of the people in the room, is an oldschool progressive, as evidenced by the sentiment on the button he had pinned to his hat. I was -- and still am -- reveling in the wonder that was 1 million (that's six zeros, folks) signatures delivered to the the state to recall Scott Walker, further digging me out of a cynical political bent I've had hanging over my head for years. I've recently reconnected with a lot of my old politico friends, and I'm marveling at the fact that this whole movement isn't based on slick, glam talking points being force fed to an apathetic public. It's a truly grassroots movement. It kills me that the media keep on saying "Democrats presented 1 millions signatures..." when, while the DPW will benefit from this movement, this wasn't a democratic party thing at all. This just came up from the grassroots, oldschool style, people just getting off the couch and saying, "For cryin' out loud, this is ridiculous." It was accomplished oldschool, and it needs to continue oldschool. Everybody's all wondering who's going to run against Walker, but that's not really the next step in this oldschool process. No, folks, I think the big priority --- especially now that I'm living in a state where voter registration is actually going to be a big deal -- is getting people registered to vote and making sure they have their correct identification, because I'm not counting on that voter repression bill to get repealed anytime soon. So the convergence? Here's Frank Zappa reminding us to do it, and in a few cases, why (as if we all need reminding):

Friday, January 20, 2012

This turning 50 thing is coming up on a lot of us

Well, among other people who turned 50 this year is Blaine Schultz. Most of my 50 year old pals have been celebrating by booking some bands and invading a favorite bar, and Blaine was no exception. Except that with Blaine, he's not the kind of guy who would call that kind of attention to himself. It's so not his style. Lucky for all of us, his darling wife Kathryn came to the rescue and pulled off a terrific surprise party that wonderfully avoided the Blaine-ish, "Oh, really, don't go through the trouble" that would have come up had he known that a bunch of his friends were going to lug gear, take over a bar, and play several sets of great music in his honor.

According to everybody who was there when the birthday boy showed up (I was characteristically late), he was genuinely surprised when he walked in. So much so that he didn't even realize the decorations were all about him as he made a b-line to the bar to grab some refreshments. I can just see his face now, "Oh this is for me?"

Still, a great night for a terrific musician and honest rock and roll writer. He runs in a different crowd than I do/did -- his was the The Newsletter crowd (I, back in the day, hung more with the Crazy Shepherd folks) but we both agree on the greatness of the vast amount of undiscovered or overlooked music in this town and he's done more than his part to put a spotlight on it. Plus, (and this is my oft-told favorite Blaine Schultz story) he has an unabashed love for American roots rock and he helped me to truly understand the greatness of Neil Young in, of all things, a Trash Fest set at a TF some 10 or so years ago. Looking as grizzled as Young himself, he and his band used their entire allloted 20 minutes to do a 20 minute version of Hurricaine. I approached him afterwards and told him, "Wow. I'm not sure if that was satire, parody, or loving tribute." He 'fessed right up: "Probably a little of all three."

And that's kind of how his birthday was. First up, the Carolinas, who I'd just realized I'd never seen before. They get described as alt-country, but that might bring to mind gentle Wilco type stuff. Actually, I think the Carolinas answer the question, "What if the Yardbirds had grown up in the Midwest and took on a country influence?" Really. The songs begin innocently enough, but they pull an unsuspecting listener like me with a subtle rave-up that crashes gloriously within the space of 3-4 minutes. Why haven't I checked them out before? Of course, Blaine joined them for a few tunes, and then there was a short set from a pared-down incarnation of Blaine's consistent band, The Aimless Blades. Then came the jokes, of course, from the Mighty Deer Lick. I missed (again!) the annual Deek Lick Christmas show, so I was really looking forward to this, especially since once again, Dan Franke was back in town to play with 'em. They bounded onto the stage and blasted through "Bitch" and "I Wanna Be Loved" and a couple of others and it seemed like Dave Reinholdt would be in top form. But for whatever reason, it was a disappointingly short set of only four songs. Don't know why, don't want to know, but my bubble burst and I needed more snottyness. So, I bid Blaine a final happy birthday, congratulated Kathryn for pulling this whole thing off under his nose, jumped in the car, and headed north.

It was the final weekend to get Recall Walker signatures in (I'd placed my name on a petition out in Brookfield, just to be funny), so the fine folks at the Riverwest Public House were co-sponsoring "Occupy Riverwest" and Floor Model was on the bill. I needed a Floor Model set. But, between weather and such, I got there just in time to see them breaking down their gear. Danny Price was up next, and I was blown away. Haven't seen The Loose Change in months, and there's been a bit of musician shuffling. He's added a sax, but Paul Setser is still tinkling away on his run-down-saloon keyboards. Price's voice has matured as well, so I was fixated through the entire set. He's also beginning to put very cool, jazz-like arrangements on his songs, so earlier comparaisons to Tom Waits (even with a sweeter voice) should start to come in. Like I tweeted, dammit, I missed Floor Model, but Danny Price and the Loose Change were on.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Looking for Elvis and an elusive medallion in the Garage

Red Stuff in a pink light by V'ron
Red Stuff in a pink light, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
Well, I kind of have my own airheadedness to blame -- and thank -- for a nice band night out. I originally was going to pop into Stoney Rivera's Dominium Gallery to see the opening of Patrick Glassel's show. Except, that wasn't last Friday. It's this Friday. I drove past the gallery and all the lights were out and I thought to myself, "I knew he was dark, but not literally!" But since I was in Riverwest, I figured to myself, "Well, somebody's got to be at the Circle A tonight."

Pulled up just in time to see a band called Red Stuff strike their first chords. "Loud and obnoxious," I heard somebody else say three songs in. No, that's really not a good summation. Everybody's fairly loud and usually obnoxious in the Circle A. Red Stuff was something different. Let me see if I can come up with something besides the inevitable White Stripes comparaison that anybody who's going to write about these guys is going to drop. Hmmmmm, well, the Stripes come to mind because it's a guy wailing a garage frosted-psychedelic blues, accompanied by a girl providing rhythm, except that her rhythm isn't on the drums, it's on a lap steel guitar. And Kelly Buros doesn't play it to achieve a wailing country sound, she genuinely uses it as a rhythm instrument that very seductively undermines singer/guitarist Tom Wanderer's work. That's where somebody in the audience said, "Is it me, or have these guys listened to a lot of Wire?" I answered back, "I heard a touch of the Cramps, myself." And that's why the White Stripes comparisons end. The Stripes, despite their Detroit lineage, are not trashy. On the other hand, Paul "The Fly" Lawson, in the audience as well, told me, "I've been trying to get these guys in for Trash Fest for a while." Duh. Red Stuff was wonderfully trashy, right down to the drummer's miminalist kit (and approach). And you know how much I love the trash. They even had a trash attitude, in that they delivered a blistering set inspiring calls of "More!!!!" from the audience, and yet, they forgot to bring their merch. They have merch, and I wanted the take home version of Red Stuff. This was exactly what I was looking for when I resolved this year to see more new, fresh bands.

Despite that, they were not lazy -- the songs are hypnotic in their simplicity, the chord changes, and their delivery. Red Stuff. Good stuff. They opened for an outfit from Chicago called Phantom Works. I thought the Circle A crowd was not exactly welcoming to them, and I felt bad because I needed to leave after just a couple of songs, but I did want to catch a set from the Dick Satan Trio like I said I would. Phantom Works was good, but they didn't grab me. Not quite yet. The couple of songs they did have more of that Wire sound, but they were so similar that I suspected that after three songs of this, I'd pretty much gotten their flavor. I wouldn't wanted to have to follow Red Stuff that night, but I should give Phantom Works another chance.

Listened to Elvis as I made my way back to the south side; I was sad to hear that our local best Elvis, Jon VanThiel (who's a great leather/Jailhouse Rock Elvis -- my preference as opposed to the Vegas Era) did not make it to the finals of the annual Elvis competition at Potowatomie Bingo and Casino. Didn't make it out this year, but was happy to hear it on the PA as I made my way down to the Rocco's on Kinnickinnic. "Where's Roccos?" you might ask. Duh, I'm looking at the addresses and drove past it twice before I realize, oh DUH, it's the VFW post on KK. DST put in a fine set before Ted Jorin and I had an arugment, while listening to Elvis' "Kentucky Rain" over the jukebox, on the merits of said song. Jorin argues that it's the highlight of Elvis' career -- scratch that, the highlight of music. Ach, "Kentucky Rain" is not one of my favorite Elvis moments. In fact, to me, it symbolizes the lameness of Elvis' Vegas years. But people seem to love it, which is probably why Johnny Van Thiel did not win the Elvis competition this past weekend. Oh, the DST show? Wonderful as always. Tonight's moment came from all of us discussing Rick Satan (aka Eric Knitter)'s medallion that he was wearing. Will you look at this thing? His lovely wife Julie told me she found it many years ago at a rummage sale. I couldn't take my eyes off it. I tried to snap a picture of it with my camera phone, and then my regular camera. I couldn't get the light right. It was refusing to be photographed. I will have to hook up with Julie at a later date to see if we can re-photograph this thing, unless some protective spirit doesn't shatter my lens during the attempt.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

A list of resolutions

The Unheard Of by V'ron
The Unheard Of, a photo by V'ron on Flickr.
Jesus. Has it really been since the Framber Wedding since I've blogged? Guess so. December is always a humongously busy time for me, not the least reason being that its the holidays and I have kids. But it *was* particularly busy. New Year's resolutions are for the birds (and that's kind of cliche to say that), so I'm going to rip off resolutions from friends, and do a quick bullet point wrap up.

Resolution #1: Blog more like I used to.

I used to blog weekly. In fact, I would do a coming attractions midweek, and wrap up the weekend on Mondays. That made sense when I went to see a band or a ball game every weekend. Still, a monthly blog entry is not a blog. That's more like a status report. I write status reports in my day job for a living. Ugh.

To that end, here's some stuff that I did/saw/celebrated:
  • The Dick Satan Trio along with Crazy Rocket Fuel. This was a nice way to spend a chilly, rainy, crappy night at the Bay View Brewhaus. I'm constantly amazed at how good the sound is there, considering that with the high ceilings, hardwood floor, and general open air it should sound all bouncy and trebly and godawful. The DST improves with every outing. That have a good, dangerous surf sound and they're not afraid to experiment (although they confessed to me that a rather atonal song I particularly liked wasn't necessarily intentionally atonal. They were followed by the always wonderful Crazy Rocket Fuel, who also get better every time I see them. They were in their element here: very comfortable on stage and with their roadhouse gals material. This whole thing was a fundraiser for some animal welfare organization, so there were tables filled with silent auction items and there were animal adoptions via computer happening. Between sets, instead of house music there was the obligatory "Hi I'm the executive director of such and such organization and I'm so happy that you could come out and support the critical work we're doing and I have a bazillion names to read off and thank so that you're not going to be able to have that between set conversation you were hoping to get in" stuff. At least they weren't all preachy about it, like some fundraisers I've been to. I remember one in particular where we were actually scolded for not shutting up and listening to her boring little speech. No, these were animal lovers. They're used to indiscriminate noise.
  • Brian's 50th Birthday OK, there were rumours about that F/i was going to suit up and play at this, but, uh, Brian is a member of F/i, and it was his birthday, and the last thing he wanted to do on his birthday was suit up and work. Here's the thing. Everybody thinks that being in a band is all fun and games. Well, it is fun. And there's lots of game playing. But (often not much much, but still), you do get paid. Which means it's work. Which means you have to behave like a professional. Who the fuck wants to behave like a professional on their 50th birthday? I sure didn't, and neither did Brian. Brian wanted to sit back, socialize, drink some premium-quality microbrew beers, and enjoy some good bands. He did NOT want to stay sober, haul gear, practice, be there early for load in, tune up, hang out for awhile between load in and when people actually showed up, go up, play, watch the audience talk to each other in conversations he wanted to be in on, break down, load out his gear, and MAYBE socialize a bit after his gear was moved to a safe place. Playing on your birthday is something you do, on say, your 23rd birthday when you're all still "Golly Gee! I'm in a band! I'm gonna score!" When you're 50, married with children and working a day job, you want to sit on your ass and watch somebody else work. That's why I did last year, and that's what Brian ended up doing this year. And the bands? Wonderful. Audacious White Noise, a folkie outfit fronted by Bill White and his friends (Bill is a huge Dr Chow fan) and they were perfect. Sixthstation readers know I'm not the biggest folkie fan around, but I liked these guys. First you think they're just going to do folk versions of Beatles covers, next thing you know, they're doing a really nice blue eyed soul take on Gnarles Barkley. (Regular readers know I'm a fan of genre-bending anyway.). They were a delight to listen to, and Brian could still have a conversation with folks he hadn't seen in years who stopped in to wish him a happy half century.

    They were followed by The Unheard Of, who gave a performance that everybody is still talking about. Best they've ever sounded. I was virtually transported to 1968 via fuzztone guitars, garagey songs and psychedelic arrangements, like somebody raided a rummage sale where the MC5, the Amboy Dukes and the Nuggets comp was going for a buck a piece. They were on which means we were all tuned in, turned on and torn up. They were loud, but we could still chat. That's a trick.
  • Basketball. Well, the NBA got their act together in time for me to pick up some half price tickets for a home game. People are whining about the NBA, but I'm glad they're back. Sammy's been playing basketball at the Y, and he's met a few of the Bucks. Back when we could afford half season tickets, we saw a lot of games. But get this. We only hit a couple last year, but a lot of the Bradley Center still remembers us. The guy at the premium beer stand waved hi. Our favorite beer vendor tipped his hat to us. We sat in seats not far from where our old season seats were. The bucks trounced the Washington Wizards that night. ("It will be interesting to see how they look against a team that isn't crappy" said a twitter friend.) As is my tradition, here's the rundown of the non-game events>
    • Anthem: Will Johnson, an operatic tenor, put it out. He really shined on "Land of the Freeeeeeeeeeeeeee...." which he held out to thunderous applause, which made up for the (sorry I gotta say this) flatness earlier in the song. No stupid embellishments, either. Boy Scout Troop 309 from Whitefish Bay presented the colors.
    • Opening Montage: I'm not sure I'm into this whole "Be Milwaukee" catchphrase thing. It's not grabbing me. That said, the opening montage ("Hey, my film teacher at Discovery World made this" Stella pointed out) is good, not overblown, and acknowledges that this year (like every other damn year) is a rebuilding year for the Bucks. And thank god, no exploding pots of green and red smoke. I still maintain we have the Chicago Bulls to blame for all this overblown stuff.
    • Energee Girls: Less precise. But it's early in the season, so they're still becoming a team. Still, every year there's less emphasis on precision and more emphasis on Wholesome Sluttieness. Yes, I coined that phrase.
    • Hoop Troop: It's early in the season, but boys, you can't count on the NBA's best mascot, Bango, to bail you out all the time. Need to hit more of those trampoline shots.
    • Halftime show: Now this was a pleasant surprise on a number of levels. First I'd been tweeting with @romke about the game and asking if he was there. @romke and I have been following each other since @gretchen414 introduced us. Among other things, both @romke and @gretchen414 are badass deejays. Turns out @romke is also dad at the kids' school, and his kids are in Sammy's cub scout pack! Also turned out @romke and his turntables were the halftime show! Now, I like a good DJ, but frankly, I didn't think a guy spinning turntables was halftime show material. I was wrong. By a minute into his set, the floor was filled with choreographed dancers of all ages and styles as he mixed up music of all ages and styles. Really fun stuff to watch.
    • @vron and the Style Factor: My twitter handle, @vron, spent the evening commenting on things I used to bitch about in this blog: @andrewbogut's hair, which is finally benefiting from the services of a competent stylist. Really. Bogut always used to have the worst hair. Apparently he's taken a tip from a winner and he now has Aaron Rodgers hair. I'm waiting for somebody to get Clay Matthews hair myself but I suspect that might violate NBA dress code. Even Rahne Taylor has good hair. And Andrea Williams is back! She always had good hair. And no tights, or black socks, or weird pencil thin headbands, or stupid facial hair experiments on anybody. Maybe, as I tweeted, this whole NBA lockout did some good by giving the whole Bucks organization a little downtime to get this style thing right.
  • George's Birthday Party at Linneman's. Truth be told, I don't know George all that well. I've seen him around and needed to be introduced to him. But a public birthday party was being thrown for him, that party included Dr Chow and the Danglers, I haven't seen the Danglers in a while, so I paid the cover charge and went. Got rear ended at Locust and Holton on the way in (car's in the shop now as I type this, the other driver's insurance is taking care of it) and nobody was hurt, but I was quickly soothed by the opening band. I think they were called Midnight Reruns and right when I was trying to put my finger on their sound, they go and cover the Replacements' "Here Comes a Regular" and Brian and I thought to ourselves, "OK, duh! They're obviously fans of the Replacements." Melodic punk, good guitar playing, and a built in fanbase of Riverwest punks. We liked them. Dr Chow was smashing as usual (Brian wasn't with them that night; we weren't sure if he'd have to work or not.) The Danglers didn't get on until midnight or so. I was still crabby from being rear ended: I know it's cliche, but my neck and back were sore. Still, this was the Danglers. I stuck around at least through Aphrodite's Thighs, and I also caught a minor key, almost atonal version of "Spoonful." That's the thing about the Danglers, you know they'll play certain songs, you know the'll throw in covers, you just never know where they'll take them. My goal is to be like that with my writing and photography this year. Let's see how that goes. 

Resolution #2: Get more new music back into my life

I was going to say, " See more and different bands" but what am I doing this weekend? Probably going to see Dick Satan again. Or Andy Pagel has a new band he's playing around in, another Western Swing troupe that is sure to be fun. I've been hearing a lot of garagey bands on WMSE's Local Lunchbox, so perhaps I'll investigate that further.

Resolution #3: Rediscover my camera

I MUST take more photographs. Last year I was kind of lame with the camera. My computer died the other day, so I upgraded (my old iMac was five years old) so maybe a new machine to process my photographs will inspire me to actually take more photographs. This isn't a new computer I wanted to buy -- when your machine dies, it dies -- but in retrospect it was a blessing in disguise. I only have to eat Ramen Noodles for a week or two before I'm back on my feet.

Resolution #4: Eat less ramen noodles

But it's fast, cheap and easy. You can get a 12 pack of Maruchan Chicken Flavor Ramen noodles at Woodman's for something like two bucks. I can't imagine that it's even cost effective for Woodman's to devote the shelf space to it.